The Senate Appropriations Committee vote to send the FY 2012 State Department Foreign Operations Bill, which contains key directives endorsed by U.S. Travel, won the approval of the association. The bill includes directives regarding the U.S. visa system that U.S.Travel supports and urges consideration by the full Senate.
U.S. Travel has argued that the U. S.visa system has been a hurdle for international business and leisure travel to the United States and believes the committee vote brings the country one step closer to welcoming more international visitors, creating more U.S. jobs and seeing billions in economic benefits.
“Increasing travel to the United States is the most effective form of economic stimulus, but for far too long the U.S. visa system has stood as a barrier for travel to the U.S.,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel. “We applaud the Senate Appropriations Committee for initiating these important reforms to the U.S. visa system, and we urge the full Senate to quickly pass this bill so we can welcome more travelers to the U.S., which will create much needed U.S. jobs.”
U.S. Travel cited several key provisions:
• A requirement that the State Department submit a report outlining a five-year forecast of demand for nonimmigrant visas in Brazil, China and India, and a plan to meet that demand
• A required assessment by the State Department comparing their five-year forecast to the Commerce Department’s five-year visitor arrival projections from Brazil, China and India
• Steps to hire a sufficient number of consular officers, which may include limited non-career appointment officers, in China, Brazil and India to meet the Department of State’s standard of interviewing all tourist visa applicants within 30 days of the date of submitting their application
• Discretion allowing the State Department to carry out a secure visa videoconferencing pilot program.
The proposed changes will improve efficiency of the U.S. visa process for legitimate international visitors while at the same time maintaining – and in some cases increasing – security, the association said.
"By failing to keep pace with growth in global long-haul international travel between 2000 and 2010, the United States lost the opportunity to welcome 78 million more visitors and generate $606 billion in direct and downstream spending – enough to support more than 467,000 additional U.S. jobs annually over these years. Recapturing America’s historic share of worldwide overseas travel would create up to an additional 1.3 million U.S. jobs by 2020 compared with 2010 and produce $859 billion in cumulative additional economic output," U.S. Travel said.
The travel industry creates more than twice as many jobs compared to the rest of the private sector for any given increase in sales, the association argues." Today, the travel industry is one of the top ten employers in 49 states, plus the District of Columbia, benefiting every state and locality."
U.S. Travel has led the charge to reform the U.S. visa system and gathered a diverse coalition of voices around the issue. Separate job creation plans by leaders of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and U.S. Chamber of Commerce build on recommendations by President Obama’s Jobs and Competitiveness Council and the Discover America Partnership to improve America’s visa system for international travelers visiting the United States.